As a child I would sit and watch the clouds. I remember the first time I saw what I thought was the moon moving. I ran inside and told my dad, “Dad, I saw the moon moving!”
My dad explained, “That’s not the moon moving. That’s the clouds moving that makes it look like the moon is moving.”
“Oh, I said.” And I ran back outside to watch again. I think I became a cloud watcher that early evening.
But right now my thoughts are on the Holidays. We are always aware that the Holidays are hard for older people, or perhaps people who are lone through divorce or death of a loved one. We understand the concept, but we don’t really get it…or perhaps I should only speak for myself…I understood it intellectually, but I now have experiential knowledge and I really get it. Not that I’m that old, or at least I don’t think of myself that old, maybe others do. But the change for me is deeper than being an empty nester. That isn’t even the hardest part. When our boys got married we always gave them the freedom to go with their in-laws on the day of…whatever holiday it was. We usually did Thanksgiving on Friday. We opened Christmas presents on Christmas Eve after returning from Gene’s mom’s house and then sometimes we would cook on Christmas Day or sometimes even the day after so we could all be together. The really hard thing now is that my husband, Gene, is gone. Right now our family is broken due to struggling relationships with in-laws which prevent us from sharing Thanksgiving and Christmas together. So that just emphasizes and enhances the pain that Gene is gone. At times I feel so alone. I fight between wanting to skip all of it and escaping to the North Pole. That is significant because I hate cold weather, but my being willing to escape to the North Pole tells you how much I’d just as soon like to skip Christmas this year.
If I really wanted to “skip” Christmas, I could find a way to do that without going to the North Pole, but that would not accomplish anything. I’d be locking my heart away to protect it, only to have to come out another time to face the same thing at a later date. In fact, you can be sure that because God’s laws that govern our hearts and our relationships and what he wants to do in and with them, He would see to it that I would have to deal with the very thing that I’m trying to avoid. Trust me…that’s just the way it is. We cannot live a life avoiding difficult events…. But I think I am determined to find the joy in the season because of the season and what it represents. It really isn’t about me…It is about Jesus, and what his coming meant for us then, 2000 years ago, and why we celebrate Christmas now. But the question is…do we set ourselves up for disappointment. Consider how many years we are together with family. If Christmas, as a child, was a happy joyous occasion where trips were taken to visit grandparents, sweet memories flow of baking cookies, cakes and candy, sharing them with others, giving gifts and good will, with aromas coming out of the kitchen. The holiday songs about Happy Holidays, and Silent Night and the Little Drummer Boy…and what will you bring Him? As a child we had no clue of the difficulties with which our own parents struggled to make Christmas special. Now as adults we certainly have experiential knowledge of that too.
As I’ve sat and reflected a lot today about just what it is that is causing me so much grief and sadness. I’ve come up with a couple of things. But the biggest thing is the tension between giving into the “scrooge” attitude and wanting to skip it all together, since our family is broken and isn’t working properly and fighting the grief of a not so perfect day, or fighting to keep my attitude about the holiday. Interesting idea…I will not be able to skip Christmas…so I have the tension of trying to “keep” my attitude where it needs be…on a positive note through all of the songs, and “Happy Holiday” greetings with “It’s the Happiest Time of the Year, Caroling. It could be the happiest time of the year, but I am beginning to think maybe, not so much, for many more people. Maybe my cynicism getting more of a hold on me than I realize.
I think about the Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol” about Ebenezer Scrooge, which is where we get the idea of being a “Scrooge” about Christmas. Perhaps Mr. Dickens was struggling with all the same things. How to balance the loss of what Christmas used to be and where reality found him and how to balance the tension between the two.
When families change, children move on to make their own traditions loved ones die, there are holes left where once all that was filled with fun and laughter. I went years without Christmas dishes. I finally bought some; then Life changed. I think I actually used them maybe twice. I’m trying to figure out how to bring them out again.
Setting up and decorating the Christmas tree is difficult too. It isn’t much fun to decorate a Christmas tree by one’s self. I just about decided twice this year that I would do that. I actually got into the attic and brought it all down only to have it sit there in the garage a few days and then stop and ask myself…”Why am I doing this?” I decided to forget it…I put up a two foot fiber optic tree instead. It’s cute and a lot easier to take down. Anyway, I’m getting a new taste of aloneness at Christmas. I have decided that I am going to find the good things in Christmas and celebrate regardless. I do believe the title of the Book is true…Happiness is a Choice.” And I preach take control of your thoughts and you can change your life. Maybe I’m getting to do this so I can see just how difficult this is to do. Actually I’ve been here before, but this is a new gate I’m looking at with uncertainties that I’d just as soon not have to experience.
But since I’m here, I’ve decided I’ll make the very best of every day I can regardless of how difficult the choice might be. Not that I’m not thankful…I certainly am thankful, but I need to find the joy in the journey. I will by God’s grace…I will.